Does the obligation to socialise during the festive season feel overwhelming?

With Christmas fast approaching and the expectation that everyone be together and merry, people with social anxiety disorder can often experience a peak in symptoms, as recently reported by BBC News. In fact, the Anxiety UK helpline usually sees an increase in calls this time of year from those affected by social anxiety, with many asking for advice on how to cope with family gatherings, office parties and crowded shops.

‘For people with social anxiety disorder, Christmas can be a difficult time,’ explains Anxiety UK CEO, Nicky Lidbetter. ‘The person will probably spend a lot of time worrying beforehand about being shown up in social situations or making a fool of herself. She might think that others find her boring, strange or anti-social, as a result of not being able to interact comfortably. And after attending the event, she might perform a self post-mortem, examining everything in minute detail that she did whilst looking for things she could have done better, often times getting things totally out of context.’

Below are some tips for those feeling overwhelmed by the social obligations of the season:

  1. Learn relaxation and breathing techniques to focus on. These can be useful in helping to focus on something else than anxiety
  2. Avoid over analysing things when they go wrong. This may be more difficult to do in practise but doing so only reinforces your anxiety.
  3. Don’t make assumptions. When you’re feeling anxious, reality can become distorted. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and don’t jump to the first negative conclusion.
  4. If possible, expand your comfort zone in small steps. Attend a few small social events, such as drinks with colleagues after work or dinner with friends, and work up to larger social events.
  5. Don’t rely on drink to get you through the night. For obvious reasons, this can make things much, much worse.

For those who experience persistent social anxiety, a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) may be helpful as it works to challenge the cycle of negative thoughts often experienced by those with social anxiety. Anxiety UK members can receive this at reduced cost in addition to the range of other benefits, including a quarterly members’ magazine and access to the members’ area of the website. For more information about the benefits of becoming a member of Anxiety UK, click here.

For further information about social anxiety and a list of helpful resources, click here.